Interview with Brittney McGann about her new book, Scouting for Wild Ones

Brittney wrote a book for the homeschooling community that is meant to help families embrace scouting methods. The book is inspired by Sir Baden-Powell’s original work, Scouting for Boys and can be found here. She also did an in-depth article about the book, here.

Sir Robert Baden-Powell was a scout for the British military and after establishing his career in the field, he began to train youth in the ways of scouting. He established what is now the modern scout movement worldwide. You can read more about Baden-Powell, here, in our Friday Introductions series.

Tell us how Scouting for Wild Ones came to be.

Scouting the way Charlotte Mason teachers did it was something that interested me from the moment I saw it included in the programs. But I knew it was something that I would really have to learn, so it was several years before I felt like I had a handle on the basics of homeschooling and could get started. I had Scouting for Boys, by Robert Baden-Powell, on my wishlist for about 7 years before I actually bought it. Once I did finally get a copy I realized that is was even more interesting than I had imagined, and also a lot more intimidating to use! As I began to work through the book I started writing lessons and collecting resources for myself. After a while I realized that these lessons would probably be helpful to other families and it seemed like the best way to get the resource out there would be to get it published. I had just started using (and loving) A Gentle Feast, from Julie Ross, and I approached her with the idea for the project. She was brave enough to take it on! Her team turned my lessons into a reader-friendly and easy to use book that fits comfortably into a small bag to take out on the trails. 

Tell us a bit about the book What can families expect to get if they purchase it?

The lessons are written in such a way that even a nature beginner would have an easy time following them. Most lessons are scripted, giving the  parent/leader questions to ask and several possible answers to expect, as well and the main points to be made in the lesson. There is also a fun activity for each lesson to encourage the children to practice what they have learned and additional activities to challenge the children to build their knowledge and hone their skills. The first section of lessons on observation should be completed first, as a foundation for all other lessons, but the rest can be done in varying order, depending on the time year, weather and opportunities in nature. I included a variety of subjects like shelter building, cloud formation, map reading, compass skills and bird calls. 

 In the homeschooling world we often say that you only have to be one step ahead of the children, you don’t have to be an expert. With this scouting book I have tried to keep that principle in mind. Teachers can learn as they go and if they follow the lesson prep and instructions they should feel confident to teach their scouts these fun and useful skills!

What is it that drew you to scouting in the first place?

Since early childhood I have loved being outside, exploring, growing things and finding creatures. I also read a lot of westerns in my teens, so tracking, the idea that a story could be told by marks on the ground, was fascinating to me. But more than that, I think scouting encompasses a sense of adventure and danger that we don’t usually feel in our modern world. While there may be few places left on earth that are truly unexplored, there are many places that have not been explored by me or by my children. In Home Education, Miss Mason says, “the flowers, it is true, are not new, but the children are…” This idea is as true for admiring flowers as it is to exploring a nature park or learning to tie your first bowline knot. Scouting awakens that desire to test possibilities and sharpen the senses. 

Charlotte Mason references Baden-Powell and his work with scouting so we know that she hoped for her students to adapt and learn his ideas. Why is his work such a good fit for a Charlotte Mason education?

Sir Baden-Powell saw scouting as an all-encompassing way of living. Scouting wasn’t just something one did, a scout was something one could be. Charlotte Mason and Sir Baden-Powell both wanted to educate the whole person of the child. They both wanted ideas such as duty (to God and neighbor), honor, honesty, and stewardship, to penetrate deep into the heart of every child. They both thought that children should have strong minds and healthy bodies so that they might be better equipped to serve. This is the heart of Sir Baden’s Powell’s scout motto, “Be Prepared.” 

What is the biggest surprise moment you have had as a leader and learner of scouting yourself?

I was probably most surprised to realize how untrained my observation skills are. I do consider myself a generally observant person, but most of the time I don’t make a point to notice details. In doing the observation lessons I realized that a Sherlock Holmes level of attention is not natural, but rather learned and practiced. 

I know your local group uses the book. Do you have any tips or tricks for families thinking of starting their own scouting groups? 

1. Before starting a group think about what kind of atmosphere you want in your group, then invite families that will compliment that atmosphere. 

2. Don’t feel like you have to be good at doing everything. I still have to check my notes for most lessons and re-learn knots every time I teach them!

3. Include expectations of discipline (as in orderly behavior). As the scout leader it is important that scouts be willing and able to follow directions. Not only does it make the lessons more fun, it keeps every one safe. 

4. But at the same time, lighten up, be flexible. This is a lesson I have learned as a homeschool teacher. Don’t be uptight when things don’t go exactly as you planned. The kids are still learning something and in all likelihood having a great time!

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